If you’re looking for a way to make money, whether it’s part-time or full-time, there are plenty of options. Online side hustles and jobs in the gig economy tend to get the most attention from blogs, but sometimes the best opportunities are the ones that don’t get as much exposure.
Today, I’d like to share an interview with Kathy about her experience with a very interesting side hustle that pays surprisingly well. Kathy is a full-time social worker, and she also works as a Speech Language Pathology Assistant part-time in order to make some extra money.
As you’ll read in the interview, working as an SLPA is something that can be done full-time or as a side hustle. Kathy did have to put in some effort to become qualified for the job, but now she earns an excellent rate with a side hustle that she truly enjoys (and she’s having a real impact on others with her work).
If you are looking for side hustle ideas and considering ways to make money outside of a job, maybe this could be a good fit for you as well.
Interview with Kathy
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a baby boomer, a wife, and a mom, living with my family on the west coast. Over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve become very interested in personal finances. My husband & I made a lot of mistakes with our money when we were younger!
Fortunately, we changed our ways, but we soon realized we were behind in saving for retirement. While looking for retirement catch-up strategies, I discovered the Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) movement, which helped me believe that it’s still possible to save enough for a comfortable retirement.
Editor’s note: Kathy also has her own blog at Baby Boomer Super Saver. Be sure to check it out.
What do you do full-time?
I’ve worked full-time as a social worker for many years, serving people who have mental illness, developmental disabilities, and victims of domestic violence. Currently, I work for a government agency that helps low-income elderly people age in place, in their own homes.
Social work is a helping profession, but until recently, I never had a social work job that helped my bank account much! Earning low pay as a social worker prompted me to try various side hustles over the years, including becoming a licensed speech language pathology assistant.
What exactly is a Speech Language Pathology Assistant and what are the minimum requirements to be qualified for the work?
A Speech Language Pathology Assistant (SLPA) is exactly what it sounds like – an assistant to a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). SLPAs must work under the supervision of a SLP.
To become an SLP, you’ll need a Master’s degree. However, to become a SLPA, you only need an Associate degree or a Bachelor’s degree. Part of the required coursework includes field placement experience, which is needed to obtain a license.
In addition to a speech language pathology degree or a communication disorders degree, both positions require a license from your state licensing board. In my state, I must renew my license every two years and keep up with continuing education requirements.
How did you get started with speech therapy?
When our daughter was young, I wanted to stay home with her, so I took a break from social work and started a family childcare business in our home. After 10 years, I returned to social work, but missed working with young children.
My sister-in-law is a speech therapist and she encouraged me to consider the profession. I knew of a couple other speech therapists who worked in early intervention and asked to observe a few of their speech therapy sessions. Speech therapy with toddlers looked a lot like play!
I thought about becoming an SLP, as speech therapy offers the opportunity to work in many different settings and the ability to make a six-figure income. At the time, I could not afford to stop working and enroll in a Master’s program. Instead, I enrolled in an online program to get a second Bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders.
Luckily, I was able to keep working while getting my degree. Once finished, I took 3 additional required classes to become an SLPA from a nearby community college and completed my field placement experience at an elementary school. The entire process of getting a second degree, extra classes and field work experience took two years.
Finally, I was ready to interview for speech therapy jobs! By this time, I’d landed a very good social work job with great benefits and a pension. I decided to keep the social work job and work part-time as a speech therapy assistant since many of the available SLPA jobs in my area didn’t have benefits.
How much time do you spend on this side hustle and how much does it pay?
I see about 5 to 6 children per week and get paid $65 per session. Each therapy session is about 50 minutes.
In addition to providing therapy, I plan activities, record data, clean & pack up toys, travel to the next location, and meet with my supervisor. None of the extra activities outside of therapy are billable, but my supervisor usually buys me lunch when we meet.
Although the pay is great, the benefits do not come close to what I have at my regular job. My supervisor is a small business owner without the resources to offer much paid time off, health insurance, etc. However, she surprised me by starting a SEP-IRA and has deposited funds for me each year for the past two years!
Is this something that could be done full-time?
Yes, there are many full-time positions for SLPAs in early intervention, and in the schools. However, not every state uses SLPAs.
With early intervention, I can work as little or as many hours as I want. I can also set my own schedule for when I see children, so it’s a very flexible side hustle! Because I live in a HCOL area, I am paid very well at $65 per session.
Working in the schools does not pay quite as much as early intervention and the hours follow the traditional school schedule. School SLPAs make between $20 and $30 per hour on average, depending on where you live.
How do you find the work/clients?
Because an SLPA must work under an SLP, my clients are assigned to me by my boss. As an SLP, she contracts with an agency to provide services to language delayed children under the age of three. (Once children turn three years old, they receive speech therapy through the schools).
My supervisor is responsible for evaluating clients and developing goals and therapy plans for them (SLPAs cannot do this, as it is outside our scope of practice). I carry out the therapy plan she creates. She also observes my work and provides support and guidance.
What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about this side hustle?
Here’s what I love best about this side hustle: seeing the incredible progress made by non-verbal toddlers who gain language and no longer need speech therapy! I also like the flexible hours, interesting & rewarding work, and very nice paychecks!
Working part-time as a speech therapy assistant has allowed me to focus on catching-up my retirement savings by earning extra money to fund my IRA and taxable investment accounts. In addition, because my supervisor owns her business, I’m able to benefit from a SEP-IRA when she contributes to it.
One thing I don’t like is when I arrive at a home ready to provide therapy and no one is home! No shows happen, and when they do, I don’t get paid. There are other potentially negative issues such as being exposed to sick children.
With early intervention speech therapy, you’re going into someone’s home, and you never know what to expect that first time. However, most families want your help and are very grateful for the opportunity to have their child receive speech therapy.
Thankfully, I have not had many problems and feel this has been a great side hustle for me.
What would be the first steps for someone who is interested in pursuing this side hustle?
If you’re thinking about getting into speech therapy as a side hustle, or even a career change, talk with speech therapists or speech therapy assistants about the pros and cons. See if you can get permission to tag along with an SLP for a few therapy sessions as a silent observer.
Once you’ve decided to become a speech therapy assistant, check online with your state licensing board for the requirements unique to your state.
Begin looking into programs where you can get the required education and experience. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website has a list of schools.
There’s no reason to go to an expensive school that requires you to take out massive student loans – find the cheapest program you can. No one will care where you went to school – they only care that you have the degree, experience, and ability to do a great job.
Complete this sentence: Speech therapy would be a great side hustle for someone who…
… loves children, is a self-starter, appreciates variety, and enjoys helping or teaching others (while being well paid).